The night was still, not a footstep or a voice in earshot when figure draped in black swept through the Lord of the Wests’ estate. The gardens were wild but tamed with vines, trees and bushes all writhing with colour.
The lady’s stare burned into the maid, that glare so similar to the maid’s own lord.
“Sesshomaru-sama will see to you shortly my lady” She rushed, eager to retreat to the maids quarters or anywhere other than here.
The Lady impassionedly nodded before turning her head back towards the door. She’d arrived a quarter of an hour previously, completely unexpected. This sent shockwaves throughout the castle, after all, the presence of a foreign ruler was usually pre-empted by weeks of preparation and ceremony. Such a visit was almost unheard of and, in the maid’s opinion, showed that whatever she was here for must have been urgent.
A short while later, the Lord himself strode in, his gaze was impassive as ever though he also was riled about the odd visit There must be a good reason for her impertinence towards this Sesshomaru He thought surly as Lady Rumiko rose from her perch and bowed in respect, he inclined his head in turn
“Sesshomaru-dono, forgive me my impropriety, outside factors made forewarning for of my visit unwise” She intoned cryptically making his brow raise “I have somewhat sensitive matters to discuss, may we speak further in a more private venue?” She cast a meaningful glance towards the many servant entrances that lined the entrance hall
Lady Rumiko was how he remembered, politely blunt and tactfully disconnected. He had seen her often as a child, as the sole heiress to the Land of Mountains, just south of the West’s border, she’d been one of the few who it was deemed proper for him to associate with. At least until the unexpected death of her father in battle made her heiress presumptive and far too busy sorting out her countries’ internal turmoil.
“Hn” He agreed, turning on his heel in a silent motion to follow. They wove through a maze of corridors and staircases, both faces equally impassive, before reaching his most ornate tearoom
He gestured and within seconds a maid materialised before nodded to get what the Lady presumed was refreshments. Sesshomaru gestured for her to sit then followed in turn.
“We are in private, as you requested. Now tell me why you are here”
The Lady Rumiko paused for a fraction of a second, as if debating where to start, before pressing on.
“You are aware, I imagine, of Inotoke-dono’s ambitions with regards to my lands are you not?” Sesshomaru nodded subtly, the Land of the South had always wanted to annex the Land of Mountains although its most recent Lord seemed to have more determination than his predecessors. The interest came of the Land of Mountains strategic and trade value; all goods passing into the South from the north had to go through the Mountains first and the narrow valleys could easily be blockaded, strangling the South’s economy
“Recently, he has made it clear that he intends to acquire my lands through marriage and, if rejected, will simply invade and take them by force. My armies are well trained and effective but that cannot change the fact that the South is also ten times our size. Even if we were able to repel them, the war would leave devastation in its wake” Despite what she was saying the Rumiko didn’t betray a trace of emotion, it was if she were speaking of the weather
Sesshomaru agreed with her assessment, for all the trumpeting of honour and righteousness, what won a war was numbers. The obvious solution seemed to be for her to just marry the man, although from her very presence he assumed that was not an option. Normally, he would of dismissed all her troubles from the moment she first spoke, however, a takeover of the Lands of Mountains by the South would have untold consequences on his own lands and Sesshomaru knew the value of a good source.
“The acquisition of Mountains by the South is unacceptable, taxes on Southern imports are vital to our economy. The South would block all iron and weapon exports out of the Mountains, to further its own interests” Sesshomaru frowned imperceptibly at this, not only was Mountains the largest exporter of iron but it also produced weaponry. If trade were stopped it would have consequences for his ability to equip his army and he imagined the South would know this, which was why he suspected the South’s ‘interests’ were for his own lands.
“Sesshomaru-dono, I came to request a union between our two houses. I feel it might discourage Inotoko from his attack if it meant directly provoking the West” Rumiko bowed as she spoke, her forehead nearly touching the table.
Unbeknownst to Rumiko, the Lords eye’s had widened considerably, by his standards at least. A marriage proposal? He considered her situation and understood her motives; this way she could thwart the South without a drop of blood being shed. It also had its benefits for his own lands, but he choose to keep that to himself.
“What would I get out of your proposal? Beyond angering the South that is?” Rumiko rose from her bow to study his face, although by now all trace of emotion had faded.
“You would gain control of my Lands; the resources, the strategic value and our vast ironworks industry, I am sure you are aware of the value of Mountains” Sesshomaru felt inwardly relieved she wasn’t going to launch into a pointless rant, detailing the wonders of her lands. “In a personal capacity, my pedigree is impeccable, almost a match to your own. I am aware of the duties of Lady of the West and would be, at the very least, a competent and trustworthy advisor”
Sesshomaru considered her words, Mountains, despite it’s small size, was indeed a prosperous land
“No songs are sung of bloodless conquest but nor are tears spilt or coffers drained”